Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe’s: How do their social media strategies compare?

Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are both highly successful chains that have carved out a unique niche for themselves in the grocery market industry. Let’s compare and contrast how each company uses social media to bolster its overall strategy.

Whole Foods

Whole foods has an extremely comprehensive set of social channels:

  • Twitter: 3.6M followers, of which 1M joined in the 1st year of opening the account.
  • Facebook: 1.5M likes.
  • Flickr
  • Blog on wholefoods.com
  • Get Satisfaction: for customer feedback and support.
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • YouTube

Here are the key ways in which Whole Foods uses its channels…

Local Social Media Presence

While Whole Foods operates central accounts on each of the social media platforms mentioned above, it encourages each of its branches also to run its own social media channels. For example, the Bellevue Wholefoods Facebook page has about 3k likes. The store uses the channel to share local news at the store, including free samples, seasonal food, and sales.

Whole Foods also has Twitter feeds customized to specialized interests, including a feed for cheese lovers curated by the company’s chief cheese procurer.

A Specific Purpose for Each Channel

Whole Foods does not mirror its content across all its channels. For example on Facebook, the majority of its content gives recipe advice to customers. It also announces product arrivals and sales, and a photo accompanies almost every post.

Whole Foods uses Twitter largely for customer dialog and support. According to the Smartblog on Social Media, 85% of the company’s Twitter traffic is responses to customers. Only 10% of tweets are content based, and 5% are promotional.

WholeFoods uses Get Satisfaction, an online support community, to resolve customers’ questions and support issues.

Unique Content with Authentic Personality

Whole Foods’ YouTube channel is full of professionally produced videos that are full of fun and personality. For example, a short black and white comedy film “Mango Madness Sweeps the Nation!” indirectly promotes the current crop of mangoes in stores. Another video with over 125k views is a series of interviews with kids about their quirky eating habits. Whole Foods creates a very likable corporate personality with such content. Because they are cute and funny, these videos also have a decent chance of going viral.

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s has no company managed social media presence at all!

Its newsletter the Fearless Flyer (mailed to customers in both print and electronic format) is its main direct method of customer outreach. The flyer includes recipe ideas and news about new and seasonal products available in the stores.

For its social media presence, Trader Joe’s relies entirely on fan generated pages, such as Trader Joe’s Fan, which has half a million likes. The fact that Trader Joe’s relies on its fans for social media is a testament to the word-of-mouth appeal of the chain. As a former employee pointed out, however, the company’s lack of a public voice can be damaging in the time of a crisis. For example, Trader Joe’s had a series of food recalls in 2012. In part because the company had no good way to shape the public image of the stories, most mentions of the company in mainstream media that year were negative. A recall of Sunland peanut butter (which is sold in many grocery stores) was falsely dubbed the “Trader Joe’s peanut butter recall” in the media, because Trader Joe’s was a recognizable brand and an easy target for blame.

Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe’s: Which Strategy is Best?

There could hardly be a greater contrast between the prolific social media presence of Whole Foods and the intentional social media silence of Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s fan-generated content perhaps reinforces its image as a chain with a cult following. However, it can leave Trader Joe’s blindsided by brand damaging events like food recalls. By delegating social media responsibility out to each of its stores, Whole Foods achieves a great balance of centrally managed customer support and locally relevant content.

— Daniel S.


Filed under Social Media Strategy for Companies

2 responses to “Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe’s: How do their social media strategies compare?

  1. Even though Trader Joe’s is a chain, I treat it as a local company – weird! I guess it is almost like a cult. If I find out that something I bought from Trader Joe’s was recalled, I would not blame Trader Joe.. their food is just so cheap compared to whole foods (so I think).

  2. I love Trader Joe’s. That is all.

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